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One of the most beautiful cities in the whole of Spain; Valencia is also its most up-and-coming with an energy that sets it apart and a host of colourful festivals that will impress even the most experienced of travellers. While it might not be as famous as its sister cities of Madrid and Barcelona, Spain’s third-largest city Valencia more than holds its own when it comes to entertaining the many tourists that pass through its walls year on year. Best known for being the home of Spain’s most famous dish, Paella Valenciana, as well as the legendary El Cid, and the world famous Holy Grail – don’t question its authenticity, it is the real thing, honestly!
It’s also home to some of Spain’s most unique architecture with an old quarter complete with narrow streets and gothic buildings, a medieval fortification or two, museums, cathedrals, bars, cafes – we could go on. Valencia also has an ultra-modern side that boasts Spain’s second most visited tourist attraction; and no it’s not a mosque, or a cathedral, or even a palace. It is, however, the collection of some of Europe’s most mind-blowing architecture that makes up the City of Arts and Sciences – think organic-looking white spaceships and you’re on the right track. This ‘city’ not only houses a multi-functional arts and music centre, an interactive science museum, a planetarium and an IMAX theatre, but also Europe’s largest aquarium; truly a first of its kind in Europe and something that the locals are very proud of.
A sightseeing bus trip is a great way to take in the best of the city quickly and easily. Two routes are available, one predominantly exploring the port area and the other taking in the major historical sites. €16/€18 for 24/48 hours of hopping on and off. valenciabusturistic.com
The Holy Grail sits proudly in Valencia Cathedral, which in itself is also well worth a visit (Plaza Almoina, catedraldevalencia.es/en).
Where Valencia meets the Mediterranean you have the choice of not one, not two, but three great beaches to top up that tan: Malvarossa, Las Arenas and Patacona. Get the metro/tram to either Eugenia Viñes or Las Arenas and then either pick your perfect spot from the miles of sand on offer or take a stroll along the beaches' combined length from the port to the beautiful coastal village of Port Saplaya.
A day trip to Cullera, just a 30-minute drive down the coast, makes for a lovely day out. A tourist-friendly seaside town, you'll know you've arrived when you see the massive Hollywood-style "Cullera" written on the hillside high above.